Monday 6 July 2009

Theological Bible Commentary

Gail R. O’Day and David L. Petersen (eds.), Theological Bible Commentary (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2009), xiii + 479pp., ISBN 9780664227111.

My copy of this new one-volume Bible commentary arrived today. (The arrival of a new book is always a moment of excitement…)

In the Introduction, the editors remind us how the landscape of biblical studies has changed during the last fifty years or so – from an interest in philology, history, and the formation of biblical literature to literary and social-science analysis. The period has also seen an increasing recognition on the part of scholars of the role of personal beliefs and cultural formation in interpretation, alongside a growing concern to reflect on the role of Scripture in various faith communities. All of which has led to a ‘blossoming of interest in theological readings of biblical texts’ (vii).

Their goal with this volume is to provide a resource ‘that puts the best of scholarship in conversation with the theological claims of the biblical texts’, and to model ‘diverse ways of thinking theologically about biblical literature’ (vii).

Rather than being devoted to scholarly reconstructions of biblical texts, or even to theological themes (such as covenant, creation, etc.), or concerned with an alleged theological centre to the canon, the commentary claims to be ‘textual theological reflection, contingent on fully formed biblical books’ (viii).

The commentary does not attempt to create a unified voice out of the canonical diversity, and no methodological template has been adopted by the individual contributors. For some, exegetical engagement with the text leads to reflection on theological themes (e.g., God, humanity), while others offer reflection through the lens of the biblical book on a range of issues (e.g., war, peace, justice, poverty). For all contributors to the commentary, the ‘combination of theological reflection and exegetical attentiveness is what holds the two parts of its title, “theological” and “Bible,” together’ (viii).

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